Too much screen time?

Having the use of screens, computers, smartphones, and tablets, just to name a few, has given individuals the ability to be anywhere at any moment and allowed people to live in a global community. Video chatting, social networks, and the internet have changed the way we interact with each other and the way children learn. Technology is commonplace in educational settings and sometimes even necessary for learning and homework completion. Despite the need for children to be competent technology users in order to learn, there can be health risks and impeded learning as a result of screen overuse, specifically when screens are used for recreational purposes.

Excessive screen time has been associated with a variety of concerns for children, such as obesity, mood swings, and aggressive behavior, and has been found to negatively impact attention span and language and cognitive development (Carson & Janssen, 2012). Children ages 4 to 6 years old who spent more time on screen-based activities showed lower emotional understanding ability (Skalická, Wold Hygen, Stenseng, Kårstad, & Wichstrøm, 2019) and an increased risk of expressive speech delay (Livingstone & Franklin, 2018) because they lacked face-to-face interaction. One component of screen time is artificial light. Over exposure to light, especially artificial light from screens, can have a great effect on circadian rhythm, which is a normal, biological process that regulates one’s sleep-wake cycles. Moreover, artificial light, such as from self-luminous tablets, can cause significant melatonin suppression (i.e., melatonin is a hormone that signals the body that it is time for sleep) after only 2 hours of use (Hale & Guan, 2015).  Please find below additional negative effects that can result from too much recreational screen time (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2016; American Health Institute, 2019).

  • Irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Loss of social skills
  • Violence
  • Less time for play

So, what can parents can do to ensure age-appropriate screen time behaviors?

  1. Avoid screen exposure for children younger than 18 months.
  2. Watch high-quality television programming with your children so you can help interpret the content.
  3. Limit recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day.
  4. Create healthy relationships with screens as a family – be good digital role models.



American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). American Academy of Pediatrics announces new recommendations for children’s media use. Retrieved from

American Health Institute. (2019). Screen time and children. Retrieved from

Carson, V., & Janssen, I. (2012). Associations between factors within the home setting and screen time among children aged 0-5 years: A cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 12(1), 1.

Hale, L., & Guan, S. (2015). Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: A systematic literature review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 21(2015), 50–58.

Livingstone, S., & Franklin, K. (2018). Families with young children and ‘screen time’ advice. Journal of Health Visiting, 6(9), 434–439.

Skalická, V., Wold Hygen, B., Stenseng, F., Kårstad, S. B., & Wichstrøm, L. (2019). Screen time and the development of emotion understanding from age 4 to age 8: A community study. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1–17.

Family mealtime can happen during breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Mealtimes can offer a sense of familiarity and security and can provide opportunities to connect with others. Mealtimes can be about promoting good habits and offering a safe place to discuss positive and challenging situations or topics. Starting at a young age, children begin to notice and follow adults’  behaviors, such as,  eating food that is similar in color to the food consumed by parents (Addessi, 2005). Healthy eating is encouraged when parents/caregivers interact with their child during mealtime  by, for example, asking questions or showing interest in the child’s activities (Neumark‐Sztainer, 2004; Hammons & Fiese, 2011). Parents should be good role models at mealtime and encourage positive habits such as minimizing distractions, like the use of electronic devices at the table; eating a variety of healthy foods; or consuming appropriate portion sizes (Powell, 2017). Shared mealtimes can take place at any time of the day. If a shared dinner time doesn’t work for your family, try having your shared family mealtime at breakfast or lunch!

Some guidelines for planning your family mealtime can be found below. Remember, lessons taught and learned during mealtime can impact many areas of a child’s life, like choosing positive dietary habits or maintaining a healthy weight.

  • Determine a time when all family members can eat together.
  • Prepare one meal for the entire family.
  • Do not have distractions at the table.
  • Provide a variety of healthy foods from which to choose.
  • Introduce new foods.


Additional Resources



Addessi, E., Galloway, A. T., Visalberghi, E., & Birch, L. L. (2005). Specific social influences on the acceptance of novel foods in 2–5‐year‐old children. Appetite, 45, 264–271.

Hammons, A. J., & Fiese, B. H. (2011). Is frequency of shared family meals related to the nutritional health of children and adolescents? Pediatrics, 127(6), 1565–1574.

Neumark‐Sztainer, D. R., Wall, M. M., Story, M., & Fulkerson, J. A. (2004). Are family meal patterns associated with disordered eating behaviors among adolescents? Journal of Adolescent Health, 35(5), 350–359.

Powell, F., Farrow, C., Meyer, C., & Haycraft, E. (2017). The importance of mealtime structure for reducing child food fussiness. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 13.  doi:10.1111/mcn.12296